Seattle Mariners Free Agent Profile: LHP Derek Holland
Okay, we took a quick break from talking about starting pitching. Now, it is time to get back to a Mariners’ fan favorite topic of panic; starting pitching.
So yes, the Mariners could really use starting pitching. But they are likely to be a little cash-strapped, and may not be able to get involved with names like Patrick Corbin or even Nathan Eovaldi. Perhaps they can find value with Derek Holland.
The one time Mariners nemesis, Derek Holland had an excellent rebound season in 2018. In his 171.1 innings, Holland struck out 169 batters while posting a solid 3.57 ERA. In addition to striking out nearly a batter per inning, Holland also saw his command improve greatly from 2017, dropping his BB rate from 5.0 BB/9 to 3.57 BB/9.
Holland is still a 5-pitch guy, throwing a fastball, sinker, changeup, curveball, and slider. The biggest difference came in Holland’s fastball, who threw it slightly harder than in 2017 but really located it significantly better.
In addition to an improved fastball, Holland transitioned from throwing his curveball as his primary off-speed pitch to using his slider more. According to Fangraphs pitch values, Holland had 3 above-average pitches in 2018. It was the first time since 2015 he posted a single above-average pitch.
Holland is not a groundball pitcher. His 39.8% GB rate is in the lower third of MLB starters. However, being a flyball pitcher is not a deal breaker at Safeco Field. In 69.1 innings pitched at Safeco Field (yeah I know, small sample size), Holland has posted a 2.72 ERA. The Mariners weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut during most of those starts, but it is still better than the alternative.
Knowing Holland from his years in the AL West and with his track record of success at Safeco Field, give the “Holland to Seattle” possibility a decent chance of happening. Holland is an obvious upgrade over Felix Hernandez, who will, of course, be gifted a rotation spot in 2019. Barring a surprising trade of a current rotation member, Holland would take Wade LeBlanc‘s spot.
Holland is an upgrade over LeBlanc, but it is close enough to question whether the Mariners will see it that way. However, quality rotation depth is still important, and with Holland’s track record at Safeco and style of pitching, Holland could be more than that.
It is tough to really know how much Holland will command on the open market. Yes, he is coming off a very good season. However, his 2017 was atrocious, and quite frankly, his 2014-2016 seasons were nothing to write home about.
With the shortage of starting pitching around the league, Holland will certainly have suitors. But it does seem unlikely that he can get multiple years with significant money. A contract similar to Jaime Garcia‘s 1-year $8 million deal with an option makes the most sense for both sides.
Like all free agents, the overwhelming odds are that Derek Holland will sign elsewhere. But as for his fit with the Mariners, the deal could make sense for both sides.